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Monday, May 18, 2009
Another year, another title for Kings' Newton
By ED ODEVEN
Jeff Newton is a perfect 4-for-4.
The former Indiana University standout extended his championship run in the bj-league to four seasons.
The Ryukyu Golden Kings' starting center followed up his career-high and league-record 50-point effort in the Western Conference final on Saturday with a steady 11-point, 11-rebound, one-block performance in Sunday's 89-82 championship game triumph over the Tokyo Apache at Ariake Colosseum.
A crowd of 9,358 saw Newton use his superior defensive skills, stamina and old-school machismo to help the second-year club win the title.
Newton was named the playoff MVP after collecting the regular-season MVP award. In previous years, the league didn't award a separate MVP trophy for the playoffs.
Newton, a native of Atlanta, left the Osaka Evessa after three championship seasons and signed a one-year contract with the Golden Kings in the offseason.
"Hopefully, I'll come back to Japan and try to do this all over again. This feeling never gets old," he said in his low-key Georgia drawl.
Only Superman would say he wasn't a bit fatigued after a 50-point outing, and so it's no surprise that Newton talked about putting mind over matter for the final.
"Yesterday, after the game I was kind of tired. Once you get on the court you forget all of that," he added less than 24 hours after his one-for-the-ages performance in the semis.
Newton was 4-for-12 from the field and 3-for-8 from the free-throw line, but made a bigger impact by sticking to the team's script.
"I had a slow night offensively but with this team we've got so many players to step in, carry the load offensively. That's what's so special about this team," he added.
The 205-cm Newton, who turned 28 on Jan. 4, relies on his blue-collar approach to find success on the court, and never insisted on being the go-to guy on offense. But as he demonstrated in the semifinal he can carry the offensive load when the situation arises.
"My job was just to play defense and rebound," he added.
Newton blended in perfectly in new coach Dai Oketani's system from the season's first game, and helped set the tone for the Golden Kings.
For the third final in four years, Newton was matched up against Nick Davis, who previously starred for the Niigata Albirex BB and played in the final in the inaugural 2005-06 season.
"He and I have been playing each other four years in this league. He's one of the best rebounders I've played against in my career," he said of the ex-University of Arkansas player. "I had to keep track of him and get position (to outrebound him)."Both centers finished with 11 rebounds. But more significantly, Newton is now 3-0 in title games against Davis.
Wearing a brace on his right shoulder over the weekend, Newton said the shoulder is about 80 percent. He emphasized the need to work on rehabbing his shoulder and getting necessary treatment this season, but remained committed to the task.